Every time I train, I’m the smartest guy in the gym. By far. It’s really not a debatable point.OK sure, so I train by myself in the basement, but my original assertion stands just fine on its own.
I’ve long tried to approach my gym training with a sense of purpose and direction about what I am looking to accomplish. I’ve tried to be focused on the fact that I have my own goals and it doesn’t mean anything whatever everyone else’s goals are. Isn’t that the point?
And in theory, this should all work out exceptionally well as the smartest guy in that room I use for my training. Who else is there to distract me? No one is coming up to chat with me. There aren’t any charming young lasses batting their eyelashes in my general direction. I don’t see someone else’s routine and think “Aww damn it all… I totally should be doing that.”
Hence, look at me! Focused! Driven! Handsome and charismatic. No seriously… look at me. That’s a whole lot of sexy man right there and he wants to know how YOU doin’? I mean… damn.
Umm… wait, where was I again? Ahh yes, the distraction free life in my home gym.
Guess what? In the last few weeks, I’ve come to appreciate how easily distractions can creep in anyway… and it’s all about the bench press.
The bench press is one of those lifts that, regardless of your lifting experience, you know what it is. It’s sort of the strength benchmark for casual conversations with most people. When people ask me about lifting and such, it’s not usually how much I squat and it’s not how much I deadlift (two lifts that I ‘m good at and care about for a multitude of reasons).
Nope… everyone wants to know “HOW MUCH YA BENCH???”
But beyond that, the bench press is also one of the classic “big lifts” for powerlifting (squat, bench and deadlift) and for most serious routines around. It’s also a lift that is technically demanding, requires a lot of time to improve… and can screw up your shoulders.
As my shoulders of late have felt pummeled by this vaunted lift, the question finally hit me like a ton of bricks:
“OK, smartest guy in the room… why DO you bench press?”
I don’t ever plan on competing in powerlifting.
It seems to do me more harm than good.
But… but… how will I know how strong I am?
And that last point is when I realized why I still benched – because my benchmark (pun so FULLY intended) is a lift I can compare myself to others on. Not a lift that I just need to get stronger at or which has excellent carry-over to other athletic pursuits… but one that I could relate to the strength of others.
That’s when the smartest guy in my home gym decided to make a change this past week and ditch the bench press. Oh, fear not, fellow meatheads… I will be doing other kinds of compound pressing lifts that focus on the chest. Just not regular straight bar bench press.
Even when you’re all alone… even when you think you have a firm grasp on your own individuality and why you do things… never forget how easy it is to let the slow creep of comparison invade. Vigilance in repelling this interloper in the night is crucial.
Because even the smartest guy in the room can miss the whole damn point.
There can really be a lot of gates in this world. Just a variety of places where you need to stop, seek out permission/validation/approval before you can really do… well… anything. It’s not exactly the kind of thing that inspires you to go bigger, reach higher and do tremendously amazing things, is it?
In some cases, the world of permission is just an inherent and unavoidable part of life. I think of life in the corporate world that I know oh-so-very-well. My workaday life is filled with policies and permission and forms and approvals processes. You cannot do what I do (company ethics officer) and avoid that in any way… and honestly, you shouldn’t avoid it anyway. Can it feeling limiting to people at times? Of course it can, but it’s just a fact of big corporate life that one needs to accept and move on from. It’s part of the understanding of being in Corporate America and if it’s something that causes you such an enormous amount of heartburn and stress, you will probably need to find a workplace more conducive to your style at some point, because I don’t see it all changing anytime soon.
Ahh… but what about the life outside of work? You know, that area in our personal lives where… in theory at least… we finally have the chance to freely choose what we do, where we go, what we read, with whom we associate and so on. What about there? Surely within the bounds of the law we must be unfettered in our ability to make our decisions, no?
Whether due to religious/social/family norms, we do still tend to live a lot according to the wishes of others. Some of this is just lubricant to keep the gears of the relationship machine running smoothly. Oh, you know what I mean. The dinner you go to with your in-laws even though you would rather be home, feet up and soaking up a massive college football showdown in the SEC. The helping a friend to move into a 3rd story walk-up. It’s a lot of little things like this where you need to do someone a solid… but truth be told, you would probably like to do something else entirely.
But what about beyond that? Are we limiting ourselves from things that would honestly make us happy because we worry too often what “others” (however it needs to be defined for the situation in question) will think?
Oh believe me, I do this as well, but I am getting just a tiny bit better about it all the time. I still care (more than I probably should) what my parents may think about certain things I want to do or whether my friends or colleagues might find something I enjoy odd (pushing a Prowler in the snow, anyone?).
But damn… the more I move away from caring about a lot of the minutiae about who might… GASP!… judge me poorly and more about whether something will add a positive to my life… darn it all if I don’t end up being happier. In a way, one method I can use to spot areas where I might find more happiness is listing out things that my friends and family might look askance at. Chances are there are more than a few perfect nuggets in that list of things I darn well should be doing.
So take that as a little exercise for yourself as well. Don’t alienate your loved ones just for the sake of being a complete jerkweed. No one likes that guy and he’s just a completely ponderous fool (and we all know at least one of these dudes).
Find your Prowler in the snow. Push the hell out of it. And revel a little more in the fact that while no one else gets it… you love it.